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Is the Elf on the Shelf Part of Your Holiday Tradition Yet?

Are you guys familiar with The Elf on the Shelf phenomenon?  If not, I HIGHLY suggest you get familiar fast and jump on the bandwagon while there’s still time.  Here’s how it works, in a nutshell:

  • The first year your elf joins the family via a special delivery from Santa, each year after that he reappears on a certain date – in our family it’s the day after Thanksgiving.
  • When the elf arrives, he belongs especially to your family and your littles get the distinct honor of naming him or her and welcoming them to your brood.
  • The elf’s sole lot in life is to keep an eye on the going-ons of your children during the day and to report back to Santa at night. He is such a motivator for good behavior that I often wish he hung around all year. (But don’t use him as threat – that’s no fun!!)
  • Although the elf takes his duties very seriously, he also has a bit of a mischievous side.  You see, each night when the children go to bed the elf goes to the North Pole to make his report.  And when he returns the next day, he’s never in the same place as when he left.  So your kids get to start each day on an often hilarious hunt for the elf’s new hiding spot.

Get the gist?  Good – now go get your elf!  I promise you, your little ones will LOVE this new tradition (my 2 and 4 year old totally remember our elf, “Merkel”, from last year and have been asking when he’ll return for at least a month already).

The elves are a lot of fun for mom and dad too.  See there’s this kind of competition that goes on across the internet to see whose elf ends up in the most precarious predicaments.  Last year, MPMK contributor Allison did an awesome little series on what her family’s elf, “Melvin”, got up to (that’s him pictured above).

Go check it out for some inspiration, then let me know in the comments if your family has an elf and what kind of whacky stuff he gets up to.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Allison @ All for the Boys November 14, 2012 at 1:59 pm

The boys have already been talking about when Melvin will show up and what he might do this year. They are hoping he has some silly antics up his sleeve!


Natasha November 14, 2012 at 4:21 pm

I live in the UK and Had never heard of the elf on the shelf until last year when i got into reading blogs. I think it’s a great tradition and wouldn’t mind doing it myself, but will have to find a different type of elf, as the one I’ve seen everybody using freaks me out!! If i was in the house by meself with the elf i’d be quite scared!!


mpmk November 14, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Ha! This comment made me laugh. I assure you the standard elf is actually very cute and non-creepy (I was a little worried about that too before he arrived) but, by all means, use whatever elf you want :).


Bethany November 14, 2012 at 5:16 pm

We just got our Elf, Frederic. It will be our first year and we are looking forward to it!


Julie November 15, 2012 at 4:53 pm

I am anti-elf! My kids are only 3 1/2 and 5 and are pretty mellow, but I have focused more on encouraging intrinsic motivation – so Santa brings presents regardless of their behavior… :-) I also feel like the holidays are so flipping busy! Hats off to you guys who can add in another tradition because I so can’t :-)


Jamie November 15, 2012 at 8:46 pm

This is how I feel about the elf too – I’ve seen so many “notes from the elf” on pinterest that are all about what kids have done wrong in the last day & thinly veiled threats about presents & the naughty list. The whole thing turns me off. Christmas is happy and fun (and not based on anyone’s behavior), so I don’t want to bring any new traditions into our house that don’t fit with that.


mpmk November 15, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Wow! I have to say this comment shocked me. I’ve never seen anyone use their elf as a threat – how sad! My kiddos absolutely bound out of their beds in the morning to see where the elf is hiding. It’s a game for us, not a disciplinary technique :). We literally told them once when the elf arrived that he goes back to check in at the North Pole every night and they remembered but we never try to keep them in check by reminding them that the Elf is watching. He’s a loved part of our family – as I said, the kiddos are already asking when Merkel will return.


Jamie November 15, 2012 at 11:59 pm

I know a lot of kids like yours who have such happy experiences with their elf and occasionally think maybe I should get one for my son next year.
Some of what I’ve seen on pinterest and blogs has just turned me off of the whole idea, though, especially the last couple of days. There are examples of just a note from the elf saying that the kids were bad the day before so he was busy at the North Pole telling Santa all about it, or a note from the elf unmoved saying that his magic doesn’t work when children are naughty. Just plain mean, in my oh so humble (ha) opinion.
I do love seeing kids who adore their elves, though, and they’re making it harder for me to tell my mom she’s not sending one next year :)


Allison Waken November 16, 2012 at 2:06 pm

We’ve never used the elf as a behavior motivator either. He’s strictly for fun and my kids also try to find him first thing in the morning. They love it and it’s just a fun addition to our holiday mornings.

Janice November 17, 2012 at 8:47 pm

The beauty of the Elf is that he is unique to each family. Make him what you want him to be. It’s so easy to get caught up in what others are doing with the same product, but just remember you can make your own rules. Heck, you don’t even have to read the story, make up your own! I personally find it hard to be an individual with all the social media options available to us. I have to remind myself of my own advice sometimes to make my own traditions/decisions. We personally love our Elf (although DH and I struggle to find good spots to put him!), and in our house he’s a positive experience. I, too, was surprised and saddened to hear about what you’ve seen.

Amber @ Au Coeur November 17, 2012 at 11:02 pm

I strongly dislike this concept too (and any discussions of Santa’s naughty/nice lists or use of Christmas/Santa as a behavior modifier). Gifts are not gifts if they have to be earned. If behavior factors into whether or not a child is given something, then it is a reward, not a present — which does little to teach about the value of selfless giving.


Carrie November 21, 2012 at 9:50 am

What a fun tradition! On a side note, where did you get that sunburst? I have been looking for one for a while. Thanks.


jennifer e November 27, 2012 at 5:49 pm

when i saw this post, i decided it would be a fun tradition to start with my 5 and almost 2 year old daughters. i didn’t want to spend the $30+ dollars on the official one, so i went on etsy and found myself two cute vintage elves (one for each). i typed up my own “santa” letter and made up my own rules because frankly, i don’t really like some of the ones in the official elf on the shelf. now i just have to figure out how to drop them off our front door. :)


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